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Census countdown begins for America's farmers and ranchers

AgDM Newsletter
December 2012

America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their communities by taking part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.

2012 Census of Agriculture“It is important that all growers, state farmers, women farmers and ranchers respond,” says Mike Duffy, Iowa State University Extension economist. “Census information is your voice and helps to shape the farm future as farmers. The Census of Agriculture is the only opportunity to know the state of U.S. agriculture. The census data can be used for research projects, general information on trends, basis for policy decisions and a host of other activities. Farmers benefit from completing the census as completely and accurately as possible because the information is used in a variety of ways that can affect them directly. Agriculture, especially production agriculture, is changing dramatically. Every five years, farmers are given the chance to be sure we understand and know what is happening in agriculture. If we don’t know the true situation in agriculture, we have to rely on anecdotal evidence.”

“The census remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation,” said Renee Picanso, director of NASS’s Census and Survey Division. “It’s a critical tool that gives farmers a voice to influence decisions that will shape the future of their community, industry and operation.” 

The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. This information is used by all those who serve farmers and rural communities from federal, state and local governments to agribusinesses and trade associations. For example, legislators use the data when shaping farm policy and agribusinesses factor it into their planning efforts.

“Your answers to the census impact farm programs and rural services that support your community,” Picanso said. “So do your part and be counted when you receive your form, because there’s strength in numbers that only the census can reveal.”   
In 2007, U.S. farmers reported over 2 million farms, spanning across more than 922 million acres. This showed nearly a 4 percent increase in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2002. These new farms tended to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators, who also worked off-farm. This telling information and thousands of statistics are only available every five years as a direct result of farmer responses to the census.

NASS will mail out census forms in late December to collect data for the 2012 calendar year. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4, 2013. Producers can fill out the census online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov, or return their form by mail. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.

For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov. The Census of Agriculture is your voice, your future, your responsibility


Sue duPont, 202-690-8122, Krissy Young, 202-690-8123, National Agricultural Statistics Service